How Helicopter Maintenance Has Changed Over the Years

MRO maintenance
The first successful helicopter flight occurred in 1939 by Russian-American aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky. Sikorsky’s helicopter design comprised of a main rotor and tail rotor. This design was the inspiration for all future helicopter designs and earned Sikorsky the title “the father of helicopters.”

As expected, the earliest helicopters were quite simple compared to those today. Early variations of the modern-day helicopter were equipped with skids instead of landing gear, open cockpits, and unaired fuselage sections. These helicopters were known to be very shaky and often unreliable. Now, helicopters are just as equipped as airplanes, with retractable landing gear and full instrumentation and navigation equipment.

Over the years, massive advancements in the design of the helicopter has resulted in major modifications in helicopter maintenance. Currently, the United States spends over $1 billion on helicopter maintenance each decade.

UH-1H “Huey” Helicopter Maintenance

In the 1960s, the Bell UH-1H “Huey” helicopter was the most widely used utility helicopter of the day. Along with the Bell AH-1 Cobra, the Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight, and Boeing CH-47 Chinook, it was one of the most commonly used helicopters in the Vietnam War.

Throughout the Vietnam War, the UH-1H helicopter was used for the following purposes and more:

  • Medical evacuation
  • Air assault
  • Close air support
  • Transport of personnel
  • Command and control
  • As a gun ship
  • Re-supply
  • Search and rescue

The climate and landscape of Vietnam made helicopter maintenance a challenge. Most days were either hot and dry or excessively rainy. In particular, during the dry season, helicopters would often stir up red dust, which could cause an immense amount of damage to the helicopters.

Common damage to UH-1H helicopters from the red dust included:

  • Rotors wore out in as few as 200 flight hours
  • Carburetors and engines were easily damaged
  • Limited visibility resulted in multiple crash landings and collisions

Due to the harsh conditions caused by the red dust, aviation maintenance for the UH-1H was much more common than anticipated and some helicopters had to be repaired daily.

In Vietnam, the “Huey” would often return from a mission under a “Red X” designation, signifying that they were unable to fly until MRO maintenance was complete. Because of the constant need for aviation maintenance and limited supplies on hand at this time, many holes in the helicopters were said to be fixed with duct tape.

Common maintenance for the UH-1H includes:

  • Replacing the rotors
  • Disassembling and repairing the engine or carburetor
  • Covering bullet holes with tape or lines of sheet-metal
  • Checking the fluids for metal shavings and changing fluids when needed
  • Inspecting the helicopter before each flight
  • Looking for nicks in the blades
  • Changing the filters and ensuring that nuts that held them on were safely wired

Additionally, aviation maintenance crew members rarely flew in the helicopters. The only time an MRO maintenance worker would fly would be for flight checks after repairs were completed.

UH-60 Helicopter Maintenance

Roughly 60 years after the rise of the UH-1H, helicopters are still widely used for defense, commercial purposes, and transportation. Today, the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter is one of the most common helicopters in use. Prominently used by the U.S. military and the armed forces of 28 other countries, it is crucial that aviation maintenance is frequently performed on a UH-60 to ensure that it is always safe and ready to fly.

Typical maintenance required for a UH-60 includes:

  • Fixing hydraulic, fuel, and electrical systems
  • Repairing aluminum, steel, and fiberglass airframes and coverings
  • Disassembling and repairing the engine
  • Servicing and lubricating aircraft and subsystems
  • Removing and installing aircraft subsystem assemblies
  • Checking oil samples
  • Inspecting the gearbox
  • Checking the battery
  • Assisting in diagnosing and general troubleshooting

According to the U.S. Army’s maintenance schedule, preventative maintenance checks are required every 40 flight hours, which can take up to 20 working hours to complete.

Black Hawk Helicopter Maintenance Kits and Parts from Cutting Dynamics

With upkeep being so crucial to the safety and reliability of Black Hawk helicopters, it’s important to schedule regular repair and service.

UH-60 Black Hawk Phase Maintenance Kits from Cutting Dynamics are the ideal solution for keeping your helicopter operating smoothly and safely. Phase kits are available for the following flight hour intervals:

  • 360-hour
  • 480-hour
  • 720-hour
  • 960-hour

In addition to Black Hawk maintenance kits, Cutting Dynamics offers reliable replacement parts for UH-60 helicopters. Contact Cutting Dynamics to learn more about how we can help you with UH-60 helicopter maintenance and beyond.